Synopsis Writing for Your Novel – Advice from Senior Editor

Synopsis

The agony of writing a synopsis!  For writers who find it hard to chop their synopsis down to size, this video from Nicola, senior editor of HarperCollins Publishers, steps us through a seamless 500 word synopsis.  It will grab that attention your manuscript deserves.  And, yes, a synopsis does include plot spoilers.

First Page

Read why the first page of a manuscript is so important.  Anna Valdinger, HarperCollins commercial fiction publisher knows – she reads a tonne of submissions every year.
Click Importance of Manuscript First Page

The Banjo Prize

HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher and The Banjo Prize is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author and poet.  His first collection of poems The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses was published in 1895.  Who’s up for 2019?

The Banjo Prize is annual and open to all Australian writers of fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of AU$15,000.  Submit entries via HarperCollins website.  Entries opened 25 March 2019 and close 5pm AEST on Friday 24 May 2019.  Good luck!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 


✏  Give it a go!

Rattling the Book Club Cage

Do you ever throw a literary stink bomb into your book club meetings?  Does a particular book annoy you into spewing a non-positive review?

My recent attendance at a book club gathering certainly raised eyebrows (I guess I’m not highbrow) when I panned Julian Barnes 2016 quasi-biography ‘The Noise of Time’ based on Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

I believe book clubs should read a wide variety of books and not just ‘literary stuff’.  Out of 12 people, only two of us spoke up and voiced our critical opinions without fear or favour.

Read my review below and make of it what you will – this is not a discussion post but it is my opinion and I totally respect yours –


Book Review – ‘The Noise of Time’ by Julian Barnes

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

Author Julian Barnes fictionalised biography of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich begins in 1930s and is about the man himself, not necessarily about his music which is a disappointment.

Barnes wants to immerse us in the inner world of Shostakovich, therefore most of the story takes place within the previously uncharted waters of the composer’s own mind.  The rest appears to be gleaned from conventional sources.  There’s a lot of telling and not much showing.

Russian Composer Dmitri ShostakovichFirst up, Shostakovich’s opera ‘Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk’ is denounced, and while there is tension and foreboding throughout the story, there’s no significantly dramatic scenes after this point.  Shostakovich smokes heavily and is understandably nervous.  He has the fear of Soviet Communism hanging over his head all the time (there’s a peculiar phone call from Stalin) and the dread which Shostakovich seems to pile upon himself.  Like the bookcover illustration, he’s a man always looking over his shoulder but this doesn’t necessarily make edifying reading.

Politics aside, Shostakovich later wrote his Fifth and Eighth Symphonies yet Barnes glosses over a lot of this, using a series of vignettes without delving into that emotional side, so there’s minimal mention of his creative process or the effects of his wife’s death on his family.

The interior dialogue does not expose Shostakovich as an eccentric creative, nor do I think it makes him a likeable protagonist.  Barnes portrays his inner world in an obsessive manner (think clocks, bad luck in a leap year, the elevator scene) and I think he comes across as a bullied child.  One who needs encouragement yet gets slapped down at every turn.

British Author Julian BarnesMy favourite paragraph is when Shostakovich is staying in New York and a woman working at the Soviet consulate jumps out of a window and seeks political asylum.  So, every day a man parades up and down outside the Waldorf Astoria with a placard reading “Shostakovich Jump Thru The Window!” but according to Barnes and other writers this gave him great inward shame.

In strides man-about-town composer Nicolas Nabokov who kindles Shostakovich’s shame so that Shostakovich is trapped by his own timidity, unable or unwilling to stand up and be counted, preferring to talk through the medium of music which is later used to punish him.

For me, this partly true reimagining is not very engaging.  I did learn a couple of new things but even allowing for Julian Barnes writing style, this book doesn’t add anything special to my reading list.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Publisher Penguin Books
https://www.penguin.com.au/books/the-noise-of-time-9781784703332
Author Julian Barnes
http://www.julianbarnes.com/
Composer Dmitri Shostakovich
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitri_Shostakovich

Why Writers Write

Is acknowledgement a cherished goal?
Is reimbursement the final accolade?
Or will a writer write regardless?

On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print.  My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it.  Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven.  No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…

Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.

My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog.  Most things I experience can become a potential story.”  I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene.  This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published.  I just keep doing it.

I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.

If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.

For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”

(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.

See, I can’t help it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


I Only Need This To Write 01
“All I Need To Write” by Grant Snider – A room with a view, No other work to do, A child-proof lock, A ticking clock, Natural light, A chair that fits just right, New paper and pens, Some animal friends, The right phase of the moon, Ambient tunes, A world of my creation, Or internal motivation – http://www.incidentalcomics.com/


GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION

“WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.

I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.

I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.

Because I can’t dance.

Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!

It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.

I write because I want to.

I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.

I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.

So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.

I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.

Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.

I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.

If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.

Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.

Because I know how it feels to not create.

Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.

Because I like making things.

Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.

For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.

Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.

Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.

Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.

Can’t help it.

To put something wonderful out into the world.

It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.

I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.

It’s part of me.

At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.

I love writing and hate it in equal measure.

Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.


Pen Paper Clipart Boy Holding Pencil

EAGER FOR MORE LITERARY INSIGHTS?
Frank McKinley, author and writing coach, also raised the question—-
https://www.frankmckinleyauthor.com/54-writers-love-writing/

Blogging Pleasure and Pain

I’m reading blog posts which say ‘Posting has become a chore’ or ‘It’s hard to post regularly’ or ‘Feeling the pressure to post’—-stop right there!

Take a break, the earth, the sky and the stars will still be there, the world will still turn.

Conversely there are serious blog posts coercing, er, cajoling the writer into a formula.  Or worse, a winning formula to be the best blogger in the blogosphere.

There’s even a blog ideas generator, how unoriginal can you get!

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

Does a technique overcome bloggers block?  Better blogging supposedly comes with strategies, structure, schedules, regularity, planning…bah, humbug I say!  There’s probably enough pressure in your world without adding more via your blog.  If anything, blogging should be

a freedom,

a release from the daily grind,

your little patch of calmness,

a zone of personal creativity,

a focus on what you want,

how you want to say it,

and most of all, don’t worry,

let your originality take over.

The old hippie saying ‘go with the flow’ is appropriate when doing morning pages and you may like writing in the morning or writing in the evening.  Don’t push yourself to write to someone else’s rule, someone else’s timetable.  Free-writing is better than no writing.  You can actually write anywhere, anytime, and I don’t mean social media.

IMG_20180611_104547

Self-control up to a point.
Yeah, I know people who have to have a hammer hanging over their heads on a piece of string.  If they stand up, the hammer hits them on the head, they sit back down and do another 500 words of pain.  One famous writer actually tied his body to the chair to write.
Then there’s that annual trial by acronym.
Which does not spell  g-o-o-d  w-o-r-k  to me.

Do you really want a target audience?  Do you personally know anyone who is making a decent living from blogging?  They’re the ones in the pressure cooker.  If you are not commercially selling, I say ‘Do your own thing!’ and that’s exciting.

I speak from experience.  You will find your own rhythm if you truly want to write.  And nobody, least of all me, will help you or hinder you.  You’re on your own, kid.

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

‘Work hard to create great content’ if it’s too hard it won’t work.

‘Blog often while controlling quality’we all know quality varies.

‘Find your competition and observe them’nothing worse than a lurker.

‘Write to please your readers’first ask yourself ‘Am I pleased with it?’

‘Improve your blog writing formula’your creativity is not a prescription.

‘What is your target market searching for?’don’t pander to the people.

‘What type of content do readers prefer?’write your content and let them Follow.

‘Start internal link building’in other words Liking but not liking.

‘You need to know the right audience for you’ other bloggers will work that out.

‘Make your blog post titles catchy’why get hung up on headings.

‘Don’t have time to write then reblog or hire a ghost-writer’ha ha ha ha ha.

‘Images are important to highlight your post’keep them relevant, naturally.

Good eye-appeal in formats and layouts’beauty is in the eye of the blogger.

‘Learn basic SEO’because it’s basic but not life threatening.

‘Reply to Comments daily’meaning a proper reply or else deactivate Comments.

‘Bill Gates once said Content Is King’well, hey, that’s a given.

‘Keep wordcount down’there are people who can still read lots of words.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

Typewriter 15
A refreshing nap or agony for hours…

Writers and Their Imaginations

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Walker Art Gallery; The Public Catalogue Foundation

“For a consciousness to be capable of imagining…it needs to be free.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Imaginary’.

 

“In a work of fiction, everything is invented, even the things that are not, because once a true event is brought into the realm of the imaginary, it becomes imaginary.”
Paul Auster, American writer.

 

“Things need not have happened to be true.  Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.”
― Neil Gaiman, ‘The Sandman #19’.

 

“Creativity is the brain’s invisible muscle that, when used and exercised routinely, becomes better and stronger.”
Ashley Ormon, writer and poet.

 

“Living alone, with no one to consult or talk to, one might easily become melodramatic, and imagine things which had no foundation on fact.”
Agatha Christie, ‘Murder Is Easy’.

 

“It is only through fiction and the dimension of the imaginary that we can learn something real about individual experience.  Any other approach is bound to be general and abstract.”
Nicola Chiaromonte, Italian author.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Writing Passion Quotation

Reflections on WAM Writers’ Festival

An enlightening literary look at events on the Victorian/New South Wales border; interesting books and even more interesting authors, and a bookshop with the perfect name.

Life after Sixty-Five

Having written the first draft of my Memoir for my own need to make sense of the estrangement from one of my sons and subsequent personal upheaval, I was in the middle of a couple of years of therapy in 2016 when I attended the WAM Writers’ Festival. There was a focus on Memoir Writing and one of the published authors, Helena Pastor, had experienced this situation with her eldest son. I wanted to hear what she had to say about her book “Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love“, and how she found the words that were past the raw pain and confusion, which no-one would want to read. I came to realise at that time, I was still too immersed in my own recovery.

It was the previous year when Jessie Cole was featured in an interview by Jason Steger, formerly of the ABC’s long-running…

View original post 649 more words

Henry Lawson’s Birthday Tribute

Henry Lawson Photograph 1902
Henry Lawson 1902

It’s Henry Lawson’s birthday today.  Writer, poet and balladist, Henry Archibald Hertzberg Lawson (17 June 1867–2 Sept 1922) redefined and immortalised early Australian life despite suffering many hardships including deafness.  Along with his contemporary Andrew ‘Banjo’ Paterson, Henry Lawson is among the best-known Australian bush poets and fiction writers of the Colonial period.  He was the son of the poet, publisher and feminist Louisa Lawson.


Henry Lawson Bush Poem

Read the full version of this ballad on Australian Poetry Library website.


Henry Lawson Poetry Book
‘While the Billy Boils’ is a collection of short stories in prose and verse by iconic Australian writer Henry Lawson, published by Angus and Robertson in 1896.  It includes ‘The Drover’s Wife’, ‘On the Edge of a Plain’ and ‘The Union Buries Its Dead’.

Quote: “Old Mathews drank to drown sorrow, which is the strongest swimmer in the world.”  The Ridiculous Family, from ‘Triangles of Life and Other Stories’ (1913)

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Elusive Career as an Aspiring Writer

Attention span of a puppy? Pushed for time? “Publishing is a long game. As they say, you have to be a stayer if you want to be a player. Even if your book is only 500 words!” said Jen Storer, children’s author and chief inspirationalist at Girl & Duck.com when discussing the pitted path to publishing.  I intended writing a three-part posting on my literary travails but here they are in one glorious chunk.

Kids Storytime 02
PROLOGUE After reading countless children’s picture books for Storytime in a public library, it became obvious to me what worked and what didn’t with a live audience. I thought it was about time I tried to write my own children’s book.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG BLOG POST WHICH RAMBLES OVER EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF MY WRITING LIFE – CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE RECOMMENDED.

 

CHAPTER ONE The Plan. Work up slowly with a picture book maximum of 500 words for age 0-5, step into small chapter books for age 6-8 with 20,000 words, graduate to a decent sized book of 25,000 for teenagers then launch myself into young adult. Well, perhaps not young adult, could get a bit messy in the emotions department. Hopefully, maybe, I could consider penning a series. Something humorous and fun, with a good plot and memorable characters. An attention-grabbing theme, a zany bookcover and before you can say Harry Potter, I’m flying high, riding the wave of published author!

Er, right.  The truth of the matter is that I knew full well I had no experience.  Career shattered before it began?IMG_20170531_184235

In steps the many writer’s workshops and online courses available to the newbie.  Or as they say in the trade “emerging author”.  Plus a local writer’s club, State writers centre, Facebook groups and a conference or two.  (List of website links at end of page). Not forgetting the self-help books – anyone who’s ever written a book and had it published with moderate success seems to qualify as an adviser on the subject of literary rules. The do’s and don’ts, the routines, the voice, the need for originality, the best way to grab an editor’s attention, grammar, plot structure, plotter or pantser, show don’t tell, how to sell yourself, and the list goes on.

CHAPTER TWO First up, I enrolled in an expensive online course which certainly got me motivated but not by the moderator or the tutor. The other participants were withdrawn and really didn’t share. And the course notes were a little outdated. Yes, I know “Where The Wild Things Are” is a classic but hundreds of good, if not better, books have been published since then, with far more appeal. And I don’t really like the artwork.

Ah, artwork. You can write the words for a picture book but you can’t have it illustrated by an artist of your choosing. The publisher does that. And we all know we have different ideas when it comes to imagination and imagery. If you write and illustrate your own picture book, it has to be of exceptional standard. I can do pen and pencil drawings but they wouldn’t cut it. I’m much better with basic colour-in stuff. Which doesn’t sell.

Click link Saving

Tree Without Leaves 09

Grandpa’s Tree

Then came the face-to-face classroom workshops which were fun. Lots of buzzing people with buzzing ideas and questions. Isn’t it surprising that when it comes to reading out your own work, people clam up? Not me. I always read out my stuff and one story was later fleshed out into a decent read “Saving Grandpa’s Tree”. However, it hasn’t attracted anyone’s attention yet.

CHAPTER THREE The big thing among creatives is to attend a yearly conference or festival in another State, necessitating a weekend away. I think a conference is meant to be more serious than a festival with serious lectures, serious note-taking and serious editor appraisals.  I have a small green notebook riddled with notes. A festival has all manner of literary people chatting on stage, with microphone feedback, showing wonky PowerPoint slides, supplemented with drinks and nibbles and a lot of networking.

Daily Things Egg Bookmarks Kookaburra (3)
Just like anywhere else, unless you are seen as someone who has “made it” you are not worthy of a business card exchange. And bookmarks, phew, I could wallpaper my room with all the industry bookmarks floating around.

 

IMG_20171228_193003

At these displays of verbose literary knowledge (excluding The Duck Pond – see below) I always wear my name badge. Nobody remembers my name and I don’t remember theirs but we compare notes, likes and dislikes and complain about the way the event is organised and the length of the queues. Usually the food tastes as good as it looks.  Of course, the better the quality, the quicker the goodies are consumed. Never cram your mouth because someone will ask you a question, and never spill anything down your front because you will be asked to step up the front to speak.

I’m going to pen a small piece on the Judith Rossell weekend writers retreat I attended at historic Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, Victoria.  Amazing vibe!  We don’t have many older buildings in Brisbane with such history.  I have organised, promoted and hosted author talks and, believe me, not all are created equal.  Will save that story for another time.

CHAPTER FOUR For well over a year, I submitted children’s picture book manuscripts to a myriad of publishers in Australia and overseas and have received only two rejections. I think the silence is worse than those two polite rejection letters. Surely, in this day and age, it wouldn’t take two seconds for the office junior to email a rejection to the poor, desperate writer at the other end.

RequiremeManuscripts.nts Of Submission occasionally want physical copies and I’ve gone the old A4 paper route, Times New Roman (no glitter in the envelope, big no-no) with clean easy-to-read layout and still not heard a word. Does that mean I’m no good or the publishing houses are totally swamped? Harking back to that office junior, who didn’t send me an email, I could get bitter. They are the first readers of unsolicited manuscripts which forces me to cry “What do they know? My literary reading is decades ahead of theirs.” Sadly, they know the trends. A new writer cannot predict trends. Nor can they single-handedly make them.

The scariest thing I’ve done (apart from hosting an avant-garde Shakespeare theatre troupe and judging a YA writing competition) was Literary Speed Dating; five minutes of torture in which you have to sell yourself and your manuscript.  A bell rings and, if you haven’t collapsed, you go to the next editor’s table.  And the next...and the next...A woman in my queue was eight months pregnant and the summer heat was ferocious but she coped better than all of us.  A book contract?  I hope the others were successful.  At least that woman has a baby now.

CHAPTER FIVE After becoming thoroughly disenchanted with the children’s book industry, I started up my own WordPress blog and thought “I’ll just do what I like and if anyone notices, that’s okay” but I didn’t hold my breath. Prepare to be amazed – 409 million people view more than 20.8 billion pages each month on WordPress, and users produce about 77.0 million new posts and 42.7 million new comments each month, an estimation of six new WordPress.com posts every second. Those stats have probably changed while I type, but it’s still a shedload of competition. It takes a lot to shine. Who’s going to read me and my miscellaneous Blogging Image 04ramblings? To date, I have 258 followers to whom I am very grateful.

I’ve discovered that personal stuff gets the most hits but specialising is not my thing.  Although I blog about many things, I still like the idea of kidlit. Notice that term? I’m getting good with the industry terms. Copy edit, structural edit, narrative arc, protagonist, antagonist … I subscribe to the newsletters of publishers, book stores, State organisations, libraries, writing groups, children’s literary charities and other book-reading bloggers like Paula Bardell-Hedley (see below). So far, I’ve come across a lot of WordPress book reviewers and enjoy their commentary. Personal opinion is a great thing, just not something I always agree with when it comes to books. Honesty compels me to admit that my leisure reading is not nursery rhymes, it’s a good crime novel.

CHAPTER SIX In between life, I volunteer at special events and displays at State Library and offer my free time closer to home in a charity shop bookroom. What an eye opener! Certainly a book for every customer, young or old; and quite a mixture of clientele. The shelves are browsed with all the fervent devotion of a high-end bookstore in the city. Without the price tag. And a few bent bookcovers and rusty pages thrown in. Behind the scenes, the staff are just as interesting. Again, will save that story for another time.

“But what of your picture book career?” Glad you asked. Confession time. Deep down my literary urge begins to lean towards writing for adults BUT I join Creative Kids Tales, an online group for emerging authors which specialises in children’s literature.  By this time I was doubtful that this was my true calling (after all, one can only take so many unsent rejection letters) and was oscillating between adult works and the perfect kids book.  I hung in there.

Truly Tan BooksEach month CKT features a different aspiring writer with a successfully published author. One author captured my imagination, Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.com An Enid Blyton lover, Jen shows an intelligent, vibrant nature, an honest, straight forward approach to writing and I like her children’s books, especially Truly Tan series.  Jen was starting a Facebook group The Duck Pond, inviting kidlit creatives to join, and the rest is magic.

CHAPTER SEVEN I’m pretty much a founding member of The Duck Pond and recently their creatives group Scribbles was added which I also joined. Membership grows weekly, and Jen does weekly Q&Q (questions and quacks) videos on YouTube. Apart from sudden Facebook drop-ins on screen, Jen does one-hour Scribbles Live Rounds and members tune in from around the world. Kidlit help is always at hand and the expertise of members is far-reaching.  The slogan “The rule is there are no rules” is true to its word. Jen says “Do the verk”.  Immersion is the only way and I’ve learned so much about writing books and the book industry generally.

Scribbles Live Round Participant 2018

An author/illustrator, Jen Storer believes is having fun and being messy, “Mess creates clarity”. The Scribblers course is for writers and illustrators and it encourages everyone to work without restrictions.  Quell that inner critic!  There are set Modules with exercises which you do at your own pace but following the easy guidelines so that your words just flow. I’ve experienced writing freely and unfettered and being surprised and pleased with the results. Honestly, with Jen’s prompts, I’ve had so many ideas I could be writing for years. Of course, submitting a manuscript isn’t messy, it has to be refined and polished. Jen is ex-publishing house so she know those ropes.

Now, the cruncher. I adore The Duck Pond group camaraderie and "doing the verk" but I am not a fan of the circus called Facebook. Nor do I participate in other social media like Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. “Click this, view that, Like page” get lost. In a short space of time I have witnessed two great bloggers over-extend themselves to the detriment of their output.  I like to think I am not spreading myself too thinly!

CHAPTER EIGHT I’m loving my WordPress blog, the layout, the posts, changing photos, the full control I have over my content. Which reminds me, in the past I have submitted reviews and editorials to organisations who have edited or altered my work without my prior consent, which is apparently their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t – especially when they muck up a sentence to make it shorter or change paragraphing. So, dear reader, this leaves me in literary limbo.

Star Twinkle Twinkle 01CONGRATULATIONS – IF YOU REACHED THIS POINT WITHOUT SKIPPING BITS.

What is next in my literary journey? Will I shine? Over 18 months, and varying lengths of commitment, I have happily entered writing competitions (3rd place once) and completed a magazine writers course, travel writing course, children’s writing, crime writing, romance writers workshop, non-fiction-fest, lampooned the Australian publishing industry, and still don’t know what genre I want to pursue. I know it’s too late to become a ‘proper’ writer, contrary to what dear Jen Storer says in her passionate YouTube video A Slap Down For An Ageist Society I think I have missed the boat. I am passed my publishable prime. It’s no good lamenting the fact that I represent Gustav Freytag’s five-part story structure. I had a younger life to live and it didn’t include lonely, lengthy periods sitting at a keyboard. It does now.

EPILOGUE Sure, I can happily write to my heart’s content but who’s interested? Don’t answer that, please. Suffice to say I will dabble, making my miscellaneous Thoughts Become Words for my own pleasure because I can’t stop writing. Basically, that’s what it all boils down to, in the end we are doing it for ourselves. If someone else likes it, that’s a hefty bonus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book Blogger IN APPRECIATION – This post is dedicated to WordPress blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley for her great reviews, ideas, encouragement and super organisational skills
https://bookjotter.com/
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/04/02/dhq-dewithon19/
and I get a mention in Winding Up
https://bookjotter.com/2018/04/06/winding-up-the-week-13/


RELEVANT GROUPS AND ORGANISATIONS:
CKT https://www.creativekidstales.com.au/
AWC https://www.writerscentre.com.au/
QWC https://qldwriters.org.au/
BCC https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/libraries/opening-hours-locations/brisbane-square-library
CYA http://www.cyaconference.com/
KLV http://www.kidlitvic.com/
ILF https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/
SD https://www.storydogs.org.au/
FF https://www.fantasticfiction.com/
BWF http://uplit.com.au/
G&D https://girlandduck.com/
A&U https://www.allenandunwin.com/being-a-writer/getting-published/advice-from-a-publisher

Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part Two

Recapping on my Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part One to write a punchy 500 words (or less) short story using exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, with a dog and cat as the two main characters.

I did the Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge myself – because I had just at that particular moment made up the whole idea! Apologies if some smarter person has already done this.  The following short story is my effort featuring an evening in the life of an unruly family.

You can participate in Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge in your own time by posting on your own blog.  Add your wordcount and use the name ‘Freytag’ in your catchy title.  I would love to see your work, your words or illustrations.  NO prizes, no follow-up, just the satisfaction of completing an exercise.

Let’s see what drama your dog, cat and the Pyramid created – here’s mine!

“Hey Freytag, Look What I Wrote”
DANGEROUS DINNER

The house and garden were big enough for Claudia and Doug to avoid seeing each other during daylight hours.  Evening meal times were another matter.  When Mr Owner came home at nightfall with Mrs Owner and all the young Owners, tempers flared and teeth were bared.
‘Such an uncivilised family’ Claudia thought.  She was civilised enough not to hiss and spit, even when someone trod on her tail.
‘Nice manners, nice manners,’ she purred, rubbing against various legs.  Her eyes searched for unattended food and her nose twitched at the delicious aromas from cooking pots.
Creating his own maelstrom, Doug ran in excited circles around the farmhouse-style kitchen.  He drooled on the tiles and whined hopefully at the oblivious family.  Usually Baby Owner was good for a glob or two of mashed potato.
Meanwhile, Claudia prepared to take advantage of pre-meal morsels already on the pine table.
While human mayhem raged about the room, the benefits of salad fiercely debated, she crunched her dry fish-shaped pellets and prepared her muscles for some feline action.  With legs bunched, and nice manners forgotten, Claudia was ready to spring.  A quick leap onto the chair, then up and over onto the table.
Thump!  She landed in a dish of cooked pasta.
Whoa!  The dish slid across the table with Claudia clinging on top.
It was speeding towards the edge.  Too shocked to miaow, she imagined herself crashing to the floor and thought “What a waaaste.”
The edge arrived and disappeared and she was flying off the table.
Below her, Doug leapt up and clamped his huge jaws on the rim of the dish.
Of course, the dish stopped dead, but Claudia and the pasta continued to fly across the kitchen, headed straight towards the big white bulk of the refrigerator.
Someone caught Claudia in mid-flight.  She was saved!
“Eew,” said First Teenage Owner as pasta squelched between her fingers.  Second Teenage Owner laughed.  Claudia felt cheese squash against her long, luxuriant fur and shuddered.
Doug dropped the dish and began slurping up bits of mangled pasta.  “Not wasted after all,” she thought with an angry flick of her tail.
Mr Owner praised Doug for his good catch; First Teenage Owner was praised for her quick thinking; and Claudia?  Well, Claudia was chewing on a juicy piece of steak she had snaffled from Doug’s bowl when his back was turned.
Supervision was tightened, orders were given; no fighting, no talking with mouths full, pets dine separately.
Stiff-legged with indignity and cheese, Claudia felt she had received the harshest penalty – being cleaned up by dog-breath Doug and his rough pink tongue.  Slurp!
Everyone sat down to a fine dinner and calmness descended on the kitchen.  Pasta was now Claudia’s least favourite meal but Doug grinned with satisfaction.

♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2018 
Wordcount: 462

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part One

Conceivably Gustav Freytag, novelist and playwright of the 19th century, would shake his head in wonder if he watched a 21st century movie.  His Pyramid 5-part plot structure still rings true today.

The Pyramid of Gustav Freytag (1816–1895) is seen in various formats now but the basics of drama stay the same.  He based his Pyramid on Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama and it has been copied by scholars and followed by writers ever since.


Gustav Freytag 5 part Plot Structure Pyramid

https://www.quickbase.com/articles/an-online-resource-guide-to-freytags-pyramid

 


Read a book, watch a film, or listen to someone telling a story.  Notice the pattern: an introduction, the build up, intensity peaks, a gradual resolution and the final scene.  My writing teacher demonstrated with a coathanger.  It had baubles and beads hung on it but underneath the basic structure remained firm.

I bet Herr Freytag would have a good laugh over the continued consistencies of human nature.  He wrote the novel ‘The Journalists’ (1854) which is still regarded as one of the most successful German comedies of that period.

Okay, kiddies, dust off your keyboard.  Your Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge is to write a punchy 500 words (or less) short story using exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, with a dog and cat as your two main characters.

Fighting Cat & Dog

Harder than you think?  Tip: Denouement is not the same as an epilogue.

I am going to do Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge myself – because I have just this minute made up the idea!  Apologies if some smarter person has already done this.  I will post my speculative effort under my blog heading Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part Two and my sub-heading ‘Hey Freytag, Look What I Wrote’.

I would love to see your work, your words or illustrations!  NO prizes, no follow-up, just the satisfaction of completing an exercise.  You can participate in Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge in your own time by posting on your own blog.  Add your wordcount and use the name ‘Freytag’ in your catchy title.

Let’s see what drama your dog, cat and the Pyramid create!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Adam Ant ‘Stand and Deliver’ Book Review

You will recognise the name Adam Ant if you were young in 1980s and into the romantic New Wave neo-punk era of glam pop music.  Adam and The Ants created a unique niche for themselves with significantly different music and lyrics, fantasy and plenty of make-up and dress-up.  The title of his autobiography is from their popular song “Stand and Deliver” wherein the video Adam famously dives through a glass window onto a medieval banquet table.  The Ants topped the charts and in 1981 had seven singles including “Stand and Deliver” in UK Top 40 simultaneously.

At this time, Adam was a hugely successful singer/songwriter/performer and his onstage fashions were widely copied.  He was a manic whirlwind of an entertainer, which the fans adored.  His antics usually eclipsed his Ant band, although they were immortalise in “Ant Music”, a single which spent five weeks at No.1 on the charts in Australia.  Mostly, it was all about Adam.  This subsequently took a terrible toll on him physically and mentally.  After detailing his early life, which drastically shaped his adult life (explaining why he didn’t drink or smoke hence the satirical song “Goody Two-Shoes”) his autobiography takes off.  It chronologically details his dysfunctional private life, diagnosis of bipolar disorder, knee reconstruction surgery and the highs and lows of his career.

THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS, MAYBE NOT…

Fans know that Adam is not his real name and I was surprised by the chapter on how and why he had the sudden idea to reinvent himself.  After a failed band, a suicide attempt, and recovering from a bout of depression, he walked away from it to start afresh.  He ditched his old name Stuart Leslie Goddard and adopted the persona of Adam.  He married young and his estranged yet loyal wife touchingly changed her name to Eve.  The Ant band came later, named after ants because they are industrious little creatures and I think he respected their work ethic.  Adam Ant was born.

Press quote: “Adam Ant’s tongue-in-cheek tunes are delivered with an excess of flair and good humour” 

My main impression of Adam during the peak of his fame is handsome, self-obsessed, cheekily image conscious when his mood was good; a control freak and not a particularly caring person when he was down.  His personal album photographs show women or band members draped around or nearby Adam but never him exhibiting any closeness to them.  Not so much a character trait, as an example of how his early family life shaped his view of the world.  No Commitment seems to be his subconscious catch cry.  Listen to the insightful words of his song “Friend or Foe”.  Even by fickle music industry standards, he never stayed in one place too long.  The only place he maintained for any length of time was his beloved London flat in Primrose Hill so when he burned out, he took time out.

Over all, I feel he keeps the reader at arm’s length, divulging certain things (often what was already public knowledge at the time – I know ‘cos I was an admirer) and keeping some juicier bits for another time.  Understandably so, particularly in the areas of his love life.  Adam gives the impression he expected fidelity from the woman who shared his life at the time but when it came to his basic urges, he had no misgivings.  Adam used women as one would use headache tablets.  If he was depressed, a woman became his natural high, a temporary escape from his troubles.  Troubles both real and imagined.  He slept with many female friends, fans and famous ladies who appeared to fall under the spell of his charismatic personality.  Many found out after a couple of weeks that he had a “glitch”.  Some struggled bravely to help him, he married twice, his mother stayed supportive, two creepy women stalked him, but most just walked away.

Adam has loaded his book with crazy incidents and name-dropping snippets like meeting Queen Elizabeth II, dating film stars or how a current friend would turn up in his rock video.  He had No.1 albums, knew influential creatives in the music business and certainly mingled with some high profile, artistic people.  A point which stands out for me is when Adam Ant became famous outside UK, he had no problems with money.  Sure, he had to criss-cross the Atlantic at various times during the year to avoid British taxes but he never seemed to want for anything. He’d buy a new house or jump onto a plane like the average person might catch a bus.  This did not help his mental stability and he suffered sleep deprivation, hallucinations and irrational fears which undermined his future.

Adam Ant tattoo: “Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes”

This autobiography has an epilogue but it finishes prior to his comeback.  Adam Ant has since added movies and further tours to his list.  He will again be in concert 2018 touring UK and USA.  He’s now older, stockier (due to medication side-effects) and much wiser with a grown-up daughter Lily Goddard.  Anyone who reads this book will applaud his struggles and triumphs in the volatile and demanding world of music.

Number 1 ‘Stand and Deliver’
From: ‘Prince Charming’ (1981)
Number 2 ‘Antmusic’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 3 ‘Dog Eat Dog’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 4 ‘Beat My Guest’
From: Single B-side (1980)
Number 5 ‘Car Trouble’
From: ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ (1979)
Number 6 ‘Physical (You’re So)’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 7 ‘Vive Le Rock’
From: ‘Vive Le Rock’ (1985)
Number 8 ‘Prince Charming’
From: ‘Prince Charming’ (1981)
Number 9 ‘Killer in the Home’
From: ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ (1980)
Number 10 ‘Desperate But Not Serious’
From: ‘Friend or Foe’ (1982)

Ten Best Adam Ant Songs : courtesy of Dave Swanson on Diffuser FM.
http://diffuser.fm/best-adam-ant-songs/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

WordPress 100 Posts Milestone

Australian Editors and Publishers Set Bar Too High

I have come to the conclusion that the Australian publishing industry and its associated editors and reviewers have set the bar way too high for Australian writers.  Emerging authors have a pretty slim chance of being published with huge odds against hitting the big time.

Strong-willed literature-controlling gurus rule our domestic market like school teachers from the 1950s.  They seek perfection, the best book of the year, often cerebral stuff ignored by half the population, and they disregard perfectly serviceable down-to-earth Aussie authors.  Also, when did parochialism creep in, e.g. Melbourne is the hub of all things literary?  Let’s focus on inclusive Australian content.  Oh, and stop changing words to suit international readers, they’re cool, they can work it out.

Publishing houses receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year and the selection process is fierce.  Only a handful of authors are chosen, gather a following, write more books and hopefully make money.  The untried crime writer, for example, may not appeal to the literati judges, but, hey, there’s always that coterie of readers who will love them.  The way it is now, their work may never see the light of day.  Dive deep into that slush pile!

Book Publishing 04
Sure, there’s always the internet, WordPress, e-books, self-publishing, writing competitions (see below) and a gazillion non-traditional ways to be seen but nirvana is a publishing deal with a real-deal publishing house.

 

“Relax,” I say to publishers from my seat of ignorance.  “The shock of ebooks has faded, so forget micro-niche and churn out those books, get those names in print.”  What?  Too much of a risk, not financially viable?  Yeah, I guess that’s right.  Nobody wants risk in business.  I say “Lighten up, people, offer a broader spectrum of books to the general public”.  Stop book snobbery because, meanwhile, mediocre books with typos are flooding in from overseas and I’m getting a bit sick of it.

Did I hear our aspiring authors cannot compete with the overseas calibre?  Our readers are not savvy, interested or sincere enough to try a reasonably good newbie?  Come off it!  Peel back those layers.  An Australian author or reader is as good as the next person but needs the exposure, the push, the shove, the necessary connections and circumstances to make it work.

Chips on shoulders, the need to prove we Australians are well-read, has past. Forget the Cultural Cringe, dismiss ‘benchmark’ literary awards and too perfect prose and embrace the mass production of typically Australian-written and illustrated books and be proud of them.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

FURTHER READING:  https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3353/3030  with quote taken from “Non-Traditional Book Publishing” by Jana Bradley, Bruce Fulton,  Marlene Helm, Katherine A Pittner in “First Monday” Journal and, although somewhat passé, it shows foresight.  EVEN FURTHER READING:  https://www.theliftedbrow.com/liftedbrow/2017/11/22/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-unpublished-manuscript-competitions-and-you  The Lifted Brow is a not-for-profit literary publishing organisation based in Melbourne, Australia, and Martin Shaw’s article explains an awful lot about the hidden terms and conditions of competition entry.

{NB. Gretchen has reviewed books, worked in the library industry and reads extensively.  As an aspiring writer, she may have shot herself in the foot}